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Gallows thief / Bernard Cornwell.

By: Cornwell, Bernard, 1944-.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: New York : Perennial, 2005Description: 297 pages ; 21 cm.Content type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9780060082741(tradepbk).Subject(s): Death row inmates -- Fiction | Private investigators -- Fiction | London (England) -- FictionGenre/Form: Detective and mystery fiction.DDC classification: Summary: A spellbinding historical drama about an ex-soldier in 1820s London who must help rescue an innocent man from Death Row, by bestselling author Bernard Cornwell It is the end of the Napoleonic Wars and England has just fought its last victorious battle against the French. As Rider Sandman and the other heroes of Waterloo begin to make their way back to England, they find a country where corruption, poverty, and social unrest run rampant, and where "justice" is most often delivered at the end of a hangman's noose. Nowhere in London are the streets as busy as in front of Newgate Prison, its largest penitentiary, where mobs gather regularly to watch the terrible spectacle of the doomed men and women on the gallows' stands. Rider Sandman -- whose reputation on the battlefields of France is exceeded only by his renown on the cricket fields of England -- returns home from war to discover his personal affairs in a shambles. Creditors have taken over his estate, leaving him penniless -- and forcing him to release the woman he loves from her obligations to marry him. Desperate to right his situation, he accepts the offer of a job investigating the claims of innocence by a painter due to hang for murder in a few days' time. The Home Secretary makes it clear that this is pro-forma, and that he expects Sandman to rubber-stamp the verdict. But Sandman's investigation reveals that something is amiss -- that there is merit to the young artist's claims. He further discovers that, though the Queen herself has ordered a reinvestigation of the circumstances, someone else does not want the truth revealed. In a race against the clock, Sandman moves from the hellish bowels of Newgate prison to the perfumed drawing rooms of the aristocracy, determined to rescue the innocent man from the rope. As he begins to peel back the layers of an utterly corrupt penal system, he finds himself pitted against some of the wealthiest and most ruthless men in Regency England. Gallows Thief combines the rich historical texture of Edward Rutherford and the taut suspense of Caleb Carr to create an eviscerating portrait of capital punishment in nineteeth-century London.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

The year is 1820. Rider Sandman, a hero of Waterloo, returns to London to wed his fiancée. But instead of settling down to fame and glory, he finds himself penniless in a country where high unemployment and social unrest rage, and where men--innocent or guilty--are hanged for the merest of crimes.

When he's offered a job as private investigator to re-open the case of a painter due to be hanged for a murder he didn't commit, Sandman readily accepts--as much for the money as for a chance to see justice done in a country gone to ruins.

Soon, however, he's mired in a grisly murder plot that keeps thickening. Sandman makes his way through gentlemen's clubs and shady taverns, aristocratic mansions, and fashionable painters' studios determined to rescue the innocent young man from the rope. But someone doesn't want the truth revealed.

A spellbinding historical drama about an ex-soldier in 1820s London who must help rescue an innocent man from Death Row, by bestselling author Bernard Cornwell It is the end of the Napoleonic Wars and England has just fought its last victorious battle against the French. As Rider Sandman and the other heroes of Waterloo begin to make their way back to England, they find a country where corruption, poverty, and social unrest run rampant, and where "justice" is most often delivered at the end of a hangman's noose. Nowhere in London are the streets as busy as in front of Newgate Prison, its largest penitentiary, where mobs gather regularly to watch the terrible spectacle of the doomed men and women on the gallows' stands. Rider Sandman -- whose reputation on the battlefields of France is exceeded only by his renown on the cricket fields of England -- returns home from war to discover his personal affairs in a shambles. Creditors have taken over his estate, leaving him penniless -- and forcing him to release the woman he loves from her obligations to marry him. Desperate to right his situation, he accepts the offer of a job investigating the claims of innocence by a painter due to hang for murder in a few days' time. The Home Secretary makes it clear that this is pro-forma, and that he expects Sandman to rubber-stamp the verdict. But Sandman's investigation reveals that something is amiss -- that there is merit to the young artist's claims. He further discovers that, though the Queen herself has ordered a reinvestigation of the circumstances, someone else does not want the truth revealed. In a race against the clock, Sandman moves from the hellish bowels of Newgate prison to the perfumed drawing rooms of the aristocracy, determined to rescue the innocent man from the rope. As he begins to peel back the layers of an utterly corrupt penal system, he finds himself pitted against some of the wealthiest and most ruthless men in Regency England. Gallows Thief combines the rich historical texture of Edward Rutherford and the taut suspense of Caleb Carr to create an eviscerating portrait of capital punishment in nineteeth-century London.

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Excerpt provided by Syndetics

Gallows Thief A Novel Chapter One Rider Sandman was up late that Monday morning because he had been paid seven guineas to play for Sir John Hart's eleven against a Sussex team, the winners to share a bonus of a hundred guineas, and Sandman had scored sixty-three runs in the first innings and thirty-two in the second, and those were respectable scores by any standard, but Sir John's eleven had still lost. That had been on the Saturday and Sandman, watching the other batsmen swing wildly at ill-bowled balls, had realized that the game was being thrown. The bookmakers were being fleeced because Sir John's team had been expected to win handily, not least because the famed Rider Sandman was playing for it, but someone must have bet heavily on the Sussex eleven, which, in the event, won the game by an innings and forty-eight runs. Rumor said that Sir John himself had bet against his own side and Sir John would not meet Sandman's eyes, which made the rumor believable. So Captain Rider Sandman walked back to London. He walked because he refused to share a carriage with men who had accepted bribes to lose a match. He loved cricket, he was good at it, he had once, famously, scored a hundred and fourteen runs for an England eleven playing against the Marquess of Canfield's picked men, and lovers of the game would travel many miles to see Captain Rider Sandman, late of His Majesty's 52nd Regiment of Foot, perform at the batting crease. But he hated bribery and he detested corruption and he possessed a temper, and that was why he fell into a furious argument with his treacherous teammates, and when they slept that night in Sir John's comfortable house and rode back to London in comfort next morning, Sandman did neither. He was too proud. Proud and poor. He could not afford the stagecoach fare, nor even a common carrier's fare, because in his anger he had thrown his match fee back into Sir John Hart's face and that, Sandman conceded, had been a stupid thing to do, for he had earned that money honestly, yet even so it had felt dirty. So he walked home, spending the Saturday night in a hayrick somewhere near Hickstead and trudging all that Sunday until the right sole was almost clean off his boot. He reached Drury Lane very late that night and he dropped his cricket gear on the floor of his rented attic room and stripped himself naked and fell into the narrow bed and slept. Just slept. And was still sleeping when the trapdoor dropped in Old Bailey and the crowd's cheer sent a thousand wings startling up into the smoky London sky. Sandman was still dreaming at half past eight. He was dreaming, twitching, and sweating. He called out in incoherent alarm, his ears filled with the thump of hooves and the crash of muskets and cannon, his eyes astonished by the hook of sabers and slashes of straight-bladed swords, and this time the dream was going to end with the cavalry smashing through the thin red-coated ranks, but then the rattle of hooves melded into a rush of feet on the stairs and a sketchy knock on his flimsy attic door. He opened his eyes, realized he was no longer a soldier, and then, before he could call out any response, Sally Hood was in the room. For a second Sandman thought the flurry of bright eyes, calico dress, and golden hair was a dream, then Sally laughed. "I bleeding woke you. Gawd, I'm sorry!" She turned to go. "It's all right, Miss Hood." Sandman fumbled for his watch. He was sweating. "What's the time?" "St. Giles just struck half after eight," she told him. "Oh, my Lord!" Sandman could not believe he had slept so late. He had nothing to get up for, but the habit of waking early had long taken hold. He sat up in bed, remembered he was naked, and snatched the thin blanket up to his chest. "There's a gown hanging on the door, Miss Hood. Would you be so kind?" Sally found the dressing gown. "It's just that I'm late"--she explained her sudden appearance in his room--"and my brother's brushed off and I've got work, and the dress has to be hooked up, see?" She turned her back, showing a length of bare spine. "I'd have asked Mrs. Gunn to do it," Sally went on, "only there's a hanging today, so she's off watching. Gawd knows what she can see, considering she's half-blind and all drunk, but she does like a good hanging and she ain't got many pleasures left at her age. It's all right, you can get up now. I've got me peepers shut." Sandman climbed out of bed warily, for there was only a limited area in his tiny attic room where he could stand without banging his head on the beams. He was a tall man, an inch over six foot, with pale gold hair, blue eyes, and a long, rawboned face. He was not conventionally handsome--his face was too rugged for that--but there was a capability and a kindness in his expression that made him memorable. He pulled on the dressing gown and tied its belt. "You say you've got work?" he asked Sally. "A good job, I hope?" "Ain't what I wanted," Sally said, "because it ain't on deck." "Deck? " "Stage, Captain," she said. She called herself an actress and perhaps she was, though Sandman had seen little evidence that the stage had much use for Sally, who, like Sandman, clung to the very edge of respectability and was held there, it seemed, by her brother, a very mysterious young man who worked strange hours. "But it ain't . . ." Gallows Thief A Novel . Copyright © by Bernard Cornwell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Gallows Thief by Bernard Cornwell All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

This first-ever unabridged audio recording of Cornwell's (www.bernardcornwell.net) 2002 novel introduces the character of Capt. Rider Sandman, who is unwittingly forced to investigate the cruelties of capital punishment at Newgate Prison in 1817 London. Fresh from the Battle of Waterloo, Sandman is exposed to the corrupt and unfair penal system with the case of Charles Corday, a painter awaiting hanging for a murder he didn't commit. Cornwell elevates the somewhat predicable plot line through his vivid descriptions, characterizations, pacing, and attention to political details. Actor/narrator Sean Barrett skillfully voices characters of different classes and backgrounds. For historical fiction fans. [Cornwell "weaves the ambience and issues of the day.with a gripping plot and a memorable character," read the review of the HarperCollins hc, LJ 4/15/02.-Ed.]-Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

Fans of Cornwell's gallant up-from-the-ranks rifleman, Richard Sharpe, will welcome the upright Captain Rider Sandman, a veteran, like Sharpe, of Waterloo and the Peninsula campaign, in a mystery that highlights the horrors of capital punishment in Regency England. Compelled as a civilian to play cricket to earn a bare living in the wake of his disgraced father's financial ruin and suicide, Sandman can hardly refuse the Home Secretary's job offer of looking into the case of Charles Corday, a portrait painter convicted of murdering the Countess of Avebury. Since Corday's mother has the ear of Queen Charlotte, someone has to go through the motions of confirming Corday's guilt before he goes to the scaffold. Sandman, though, soon realizes that the man is innocent, and to prove it he has to locate a servant girl who was a likely witness to the countess's murder and has now disappeared. Sandman's investigation leads him to confront the corrupt and decadent members of London's Seraphim Club, but fortunately his reputation as a brave battlefield officer turns into allies any number of ex-soldier ruffians who might otherwise have given him trouble. The suspense mounts as Sandman must race the clock to prevent a miscarriage of justice at the nail-biting climax. An unresolved subplot involving our hero's ex-fiancEe, who still loves him despite his fall into poverty, suggests that Sandman will be back for further crime-solving adventures. Traditional historical mystery readers should cheer. (May 5) Forecast: Since the Sharpe series already has a strong following among mystery fans, it should be easy for Cornwell to build on that audience if this is indeed the start of a new crime series. He is also the author of two other historical series, the Nathaniel Starbuck Chronicles and the Warlord Chronicles. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Cornwell, author of the best-selling Richard Sharpe saga, turns his attention from the battlefield in this meticulously crafted historical mystery. After successfully defending his country at Waterloo, Captain Rider Sandman returns to England to face bankruptcy and disgrace. Unable to pay off his enormous gambling debts, Rider's father has committed suicide, leaving his son to uphold the family honor. Penniless and without prospects, Rider sells his commission to house his mother and younger sister. Looking for any type of honest work that will enable him to live and to pay off some of his father's creditors, he accepts an assignment to investigate the circumstances of the brutal rape and murder of the countess of Avebury. Though a hapless young portrait painter has already been convicted of the crime, Sandman begins to suspect well-connected members of the aristocracy have framed him. Racing against time to save a man from the gallows, his inquiries lead him into the seamy underbelly of upper-class Regency society. Cornwell's flair for authentic detailing distinguishes this suspenseful, action-packed period whodunit. --Margaret Flanagan

Kirkus Book Review

A washed-ashore Cape Codder for the past 20 years, Cornwell has published 18 Richard Sharpe British historicals about soldiering during the Napoleonic Wars (Sharpe's Triumph, 2002), nearly a dozen of which have been seen on PBS. He now abandons Sharpe and embarks on a lively novel against capital punishment, set in England in the post-Napoleonic Wars period, known as the Regency, during which crop failures have undermined the lavishly wealthy style of London's highborn. Indeed, when Rider Sandman, a hero back from Waterloo, finds that his family has gone bust, he must now support himself as an investigator for the Crown who looks into capital cases. During this particular period, the Crown hands out death sentences like playing cards, even for minor crimes by children. When the artist Charles Corday is accused of the rape and murder of a lady, Sandman has but a few days to find the real perp before Corday is hanged. His investigation takes him through strongly drawn fashionable and grimy levels of London, including an overstuffed Newgate Prison. And it is a trail that may prove fatal to Sandman himself. Does the title tell too much? Or will Sandman fail? Standard Cornwell, this time with enough effluvial smells to make a bloodhound hold its breath.